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LIVING ON A BOAT: The first nautical steps

LIVING ON A BOAT: The first nautical steps


Nautical stories begin very differently. Some people fall in love with boats and sailing boats as children, some develop an interest only later in life, while others see vessels as a sign of their success and a reward for the effort they put into their careers. Naturally, the kind of love towards vessels defines the way we behave on a boat, how much we sail and how we take care about our boat.

In a series of articles about life on a vessel, or even better- life with a vessel (speedboat, sailboat, water craft or  small yacht) we will present you the most important chapters of nautical know-how, rules, tricks of trade and various ideas. It will make your life and navigation safer, easier and much more fun.

Ah, yes, something else: if you are buying a yacht of 37 meters in length, on which you will have a captain, four sailors, a chef and three other stewardesses, this text is not for you. Perhaps some of these articles will be useful to your butler so that they can properly pack you for a vacation on the yacht, but definitely not for you …

You have bought a vessel. Now what?

After reading texts, visiting boat shows, sea trials and visiting various shipyards, you selected and purchased the vessel. The first challenge that awaits you is a free berthing space in a marina. In those that are strategically best positioned on the Adriatic, you have to wait for a year, two or even longer for a free berth. Luckily in recent years, several new large marinas have been built on the Adriatic coast, where berthing is not a problem.

Tip: even before your vessel is delivered to you, select the marina, arrange all conditions and secure your berth.

Do you have a nautical ”driver’s licence“?

If you do not have a boating license or a nautical “driver’s licence” yet, now is the right time for taking the course and the exam. Of course, the theory is one thing and practice is another, so  after passing the exam, in order to ensure safe driving or sailing, you will need some additional courses.

Almost everyone, who would like to sail, should attend one of the sailing courses, which last over a weekend or even up to 7 days. You can choose from the beginner, advanced or off-shore sailing courses after which you could sail off on a holiday all by yourself. Unfortunately, the situation with motorboats is quite different. There’s a steering wheel and an “accelerator” lever, so everything seems just as simple as in the car. But the speedboat is not a car, and the sea is not a road, so we recommend that you also take a course for steering a speedboat, or to make sure that the seller shows you the basics of steering and other maneuvers.

When you set off for your first independent sailing, start slowly. With each day at sea and every nautical mile, you will have more knowledge and experience, and this is the only way to enjoy the sea safely and for a long time.

Basic boating skills

Navigation includes specific expertise and skills necessary for the skipper and crew members to maneuver at sea and in a marina. The most important skills would be work with ropes, tying knots, work with sails, moving around the boat during sailing and maneuvering, working with other equipment (anchor, rub rails, safety equipment) and so on. If you have no knowledge about those activities, look for some of the nautical schools, where you and your crew members will learn everything you need for safe navigation.

The skipper and crew members must have basic knowledge of:

  • tying nautical knots,
  • work with ropes (throwing a rope to shore, mooring and similar),
  • tying rub rails,
  • lowering and lifting the anchor,
  • navigation,
  • boat maneuvering during navigation and sailing in and out of a marina,
  • rules for avoiding collisions at sea,
  • safety protocols in the event of an accident.

Additionally, on a sailboat crew members must know the following:

  • how to handle sails (every crew member has a specific role and a task),
  • types of winds and their direction,
  • how to move around the deck during sailing.

If nautical “beginners” are on the roof, do not rush to the sea, but first make sure that everyone learns basic knots, show them how to throw a rope and warn them about possible hazards several times. The most frequent accidents are falling down when you have to jump onto the dock, injuries to the legs and hands when attempting to push the boat off the dock, falling over the sides of the boat and various injuries due to careless and rapid movement on the deck, work with equipment, and so on.

Make sure you take care of all the necessary and adequate equipment

If you want to sail safely and above all with a smile on your face, you need the right equipment, with which you will be able to deal with every situation. About various equipment, such as kitchen equipment, first aid equipment, tools, navigation equipment and the like, we will write in the following issues, and now it is time for the first and the basic one, without which you should  not set sail.

Safety vests – forget about the cheapest ones you will have under the bench in the lounge or under the bed in the bow cabin. It is much better to get modern automatic vests, which are lighter and do not hinder movement. Remember, you must have an appropriate size vest for each crew member, and the most important thing is to have appropriate vests for children.

Signal flares – are part of the required equipment, but many boaters have no idea how to use them properly. Read the instructions and get new ones when they expire. (Tip: You should not throw away old rockets, but use them carefully to learn how to use them properly. Best time for that could be the New Year’s eve somewhere safe and far away from forests, buildings, people and animals.)

Fire extinguisher – if it is not already there, place an automatic one in the engine room, and another one or two (depending on the size of the vessel) in places where you can quickly find and use them. Do not forget about regular inspections and servicing and above all, firstly read the operating instructions!

First aid kit – plasters, bandages, gauze and the like. You’ll need it.

Ropes and rub rails – buy enough rope (at least three), strong enough to safely tie your boat in all conditions (strong wind, waves and the like), long enough and of high quality, to withstand a few years in all weather conditions. Also, you need to have enough rub rails of the right dimensions.

Compass – small speed boats often do not have a built-in compass, so you need to get a manual one. Don’t waste money on cheap compass-toys, but buy a high quality, big enough and reliable compass.

Maps and pilots – for safe navigation and important information. Of course, you will also have electronic navigation systems, but hard-copy maps still rule! Additionally, you should not forget about the navigation “tools” – triangle (2x), nautical divider, pencil and rubber, and for easier navigation, you should prepare binoculars.

Box with ABC or “McGyver” equipment – multitool is all in one (from knife to pliers), and in the box you should store extra sticky tape, plastic ties, screwdriver and wrench set, lighter, torch, scissors and a few thinner ropes. This box is also commonly referred to as an “everything and all”, but because of its contents it is necessary on every vessel.

After the season

When buying a boat you must think of the end of the nautical season and be ready to answer some very important questions. Where will you dock your vessel after the season (in the marina in the water or on the land – a dry berth)? If not, do you have a trailer and a powerful enough car to tow the boat home? Do you have enough space in your yard for a speedboat?

Do not worry, the first nautical steps are the hardest, but after the first season you will feel like an old sea wolf and wait eagerly for the new season to start. Trust me, having your own vessel is the most wonderful thing in the world!


Tekst: Matej Ogorevc

Foto: Depositphotos, boot Dusseldorf





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